I’m not sure I’m sciencey enough for Loving Richard Feynman. You see, it’s a fairly standard contemporary novel for young adults, with mild coming-of-age themes, made different due to the protagonist’s love for science and unique crush on a long-dead physicist. While I loved mathematics in high school and would very much have enjoyed the maths competition that Catherine takes part in, I never had the burning urge to study physics or to become a scientist when I grew up. So, in that sense, the thing that makes this novel different to the many others dealing with similar family and social issues is not a thing that resonates with me at all. Therefore, it felt a little samey to me, I’m afraid.
On the up-side, Loving Richard Feynman is delightfully Australian. There’s never any doubt that it is set in country Victoria – with a brief Melbourne visit thrown in. I do enjoy YA fiction set in Australia, so the setting was one of my favourite aspects of the novel.
Catherine is a realistic protagonist, if not always a completely likeable one. She’s very self-conscious and not always very nice to her friends and the rest of her classmates, but she has a strong voice and her quirks are cleverly portrayed. As someone who wallpapered her room with posters of Guns n’ Roses in my teens, I was particularly amused by the thought of Catherine’s most important decoration being a poster of the man who helped create the atom bomb. I think Tangey did a good job, also, of showing how Catherine hides behind her differences when it comes to dealing with her peers.
While Loving Richard Feynman will not be a book that sticks in my mind forever, it’s a capable piece of writing and a light novel that should please lovers of Australian YA who are looking for a quick contemporary read.